October 17, 2007

Family Matters, and a Sobering 21st

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My niece firmly believes that her 19-year-old male cousin tastes like chocolate and smells like cotton candy. She personally verifies that this has not changed every time she sees him. Even for a five year old, I find her to be rather bizarre; thus, she fits in well with the rest of my family.
Over fall break, I turned 21. To celebrate I went all the way home to Connecticut on that Friday in order to wake at dawn on Saturday, my birthday, to drive to Boston, and move furniture with my father until 11 p.m. — with no forewarning. When we were through, I had the pleasure of riding the two-and-one-half-hours home sandwiched between two full industrial trash bags and on top of an oak dresser in the rear of a minivan. We had sold our condo and needed to empty it. Moving, though, was not what I thought I would be doing or what I wanted to do on my break. I am still skeptical if my father and I bonded, which he divulged was the “real reason” for “asking” me to help him. I had foolishly thought it was because my 5’2” mother couldn’t carry a fully assembled futon down five flights of stairs.
So yes, twenty one — quite momentous. At my family birthday party the subsequent day, I received numerous cards implying that I should celebrate by getting shit-faced, or “Shih-Tzu faced” as one card suggested with a black and white photograph of one of those horrid little animals face-planted in a martini glass. Ironically, it was the first family party in four years where I was not inebriated.
I drink for a myriad of reasons at these occasions. Mostly because my family is best when euphemistically viewed through beer goggles.
My mother is Portuguese. This means that she was raised Catholic, her father was an emotionally distant alcoholic, her mother was a saint, and all eight of her siblings live within a 25-mile radius and measure under sixty five inches short. Pretty standard. She is also emotional in that romantic, European way. The American Psychiatric Association might use the more formal “manic/depressive bipolar” to describe her, but somehow I just prefer the old fashioned “Mom.”
My mother lost some weight. I am bad with guessing women’s sizes, but last Christmas my father and I even wandered into a Lane Bryant to scout a gift for her, whereas now she is a size four. Every time I come home she loves to remind me of her new, slimmer self. The other day she waltzed into my room, picked up a pair of my jeans, and holding them to her hips, said in a self-satisfied tone, “I wonder if these would fit me? What do you think?” I immediately and pseudo-respectfully responded,
“I think it is wonderful that you have a new, svelte figure, Mother. But why don’t you celebrate by buying some flattering women’s clothing?” After not hearing what she had wanted, she paused for a moment before replying in a flustered, stern tone,
“Hey, Nate, fuck you.”
An hour later she would be serving guests more food than an army could possibly eat, setting an enormous cake before me, and proclaiming how much she loved me.
My sister is an artist. Her former bedroom has been converted into a gallery / holding cell for her work. In order to steal my thunder on my 21st, she took my entire party there to show them her trove of somewhat distorted nude self-portraits and paintings of oysters. Clearly unprepared for my own party, I had left all of my studio work in upstate New York, disabling me from being a whore for plaudits. In retrospect, I don’t think my floor plans could have competed with her larger than life genitals and personified seafood.
My father’s mother likes to meddle. She is an 86-year-old British woman and as one of her recent letters stated, she recently “fell on her face about 1:30 a.m. and did quite a job on the fall.” Despite being black and blue, she “is healing nicely.” We got her some Vicodin, X-rays, and one of those “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” buttons (you know what I am talking about and you know you laughed when you saw the commercial too). Unfortunately, though, she is well enough to interrogate me with her checklist of questions.
“So you have a girlfriend yet?” she squawked over a cup of tea.
“No, Grandma, I haven’t.”
“Aww, why not — they keeping you too busy up there at Cornell?” she asked before my vagina-painting-sister interrupted from across the table,
“No, he is too busy sucking dick.”
“What’d you say?”
“Nothing, Grandma, Rebecca was talking to the dog”
Sometimes I am glad that she cannot afford those new hearing aides.